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Postgame: Wiggins early, Towns late in first game back from break

In the days heading up to Friday’s post-break return to action, the Timberwolves talked about a push for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. It was a difficult task at best, with a slew of teams between the Wolves and No. 8 Denver, even though Minnesota entered tonight’s game with Dallas at Target Center just 3 games back of the Nuggets.

But this was a good start. The Wolves edged a half-game ahead of the Mavs into a tie with New Orleans for 11th in the conference, 2½ games behind the Nuggets, with Portland and Sacrament still between them and Denver.

Andrew Wiggins opened the game with 16 first-quarter points. Towns had 14 in the fourth, 12 coming after Dallas – down 15 in the third quarter – had tied the game with 7:58 left.

“It was a key game for us,’’ Ricky Rubio said. “They were right there, fighting for the playoffs. And we had a great opportunity after Denver lost last night. It’s going to be like that every week now, for the rest of the season. Every game will be a key, and we have to be ready.’’

Here are some final notes from tonight’s game:

--with 27 points Friday, Wiggins has 108 in his last three, just short of Kevin Garnett’s franchise record for most points in a three-game stretch (112 in 2000).

--But Wiggins did match Garnett’s streak of consecutive 20-point games, with his 16th straight. Garnett did that twice. Wiggins will go for the record Saturday in Houston.

--After a difficult week in the trade rumor mill, Rubio was very, very good, scoring 13 with 14 assists and three steals. He was the main reason the Wolves had a 17-5 edge in fast-break points. He has now had 10 or more assists in five of his last seven games. It was his 12th double-double of the season.

--Towns had a double-double in just the third and fourth quarters (20 points, 10 rebounds).

--The Wolves, who shot 52.6 percent tonight, are now 12-3 when they shoot 50 percent or better this season.

--Tyus Jones got a lot of minutes tonight with the Mavericks going with a lot of three-guard sets. He scored 11 points in nearly 25 minutes of playing time.

Will Thibodeau's plan have Wolves ready for playoff run?

For the first time in nine days the Wolves will return to game action when they host the Dallas Mavericks at Target Center tonight at 7 p.m.

One big question at today’s morning shoot was how the team would respond out of the All Star break after having been away for so long.

Well, if coach Tom Thibodeau has anything to say about it, it will go fine. It will come as no surprise that the ultra-prepared Thibodeau gave the players a plan on how to stay prepared before they scattered for the  break.

“Before the break we laid out what we wanted them to do when they were away,’’ Thibodeau said. “Just in terms of the conditioning. I like the way the break is now, it gives you a little more time. The first day back (Wednesday) was more activation, just to get the bodies going again. And then we had a really good practice Thursday, and shootaround today. Again, the big thing is to make sure you have a routine established in terms of how you prepare to play.’’

And Thibodeau gave it a good bit of thought.

“It’s part of being a pro,’’ he said. “You want to have a strategy for everything. You have the stuff you want to do in the fall, the stuff in the off-season. You have stuff you do over the All Star break. Because you know when those times are coming. How you prepare and plan for them, that’s part of the season. It’s important. You don’t want someone to come back deconditioned. You want them to get their rest, but to manage it well.’’

--One player who really didn’t want the break was Andrew Wiggins, who was on fire before the break. He became the second player in franchise history (Kevin Love was the other one) to post consecutive 40-point games in the two games leading up to the break. Wiggins was 16-for-29 for 41 points in a loss to Cleveland, then he had 40 points on 15-for-26 shooting in a victory at Denver right before the break.

“I didn’t want the break,’’ he said. “I was in a rhythm and I was feeling good. But it’s good to get your legs back, and relax.’’

--Brandon Rush didn’t get back to Minneapolis until Thursday. Rush, a Kansas City native, had his No. 25 Kansas jersey retired by the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse at halftime of Wednesday’s KU-TCU game. For Rush, who hasn’t been back to the campus in Lawrence much since leaving there with a national championship under his belt, said it was a great experience.

“I was a little nervous at first, going up and speaking in front of everybody,’’ he said. “But it turned out to be good. Going back, it was amazing. People showed me a lot of love. I still have a lot of fans down there, and they still follow me to this day.’’

--Nerlens Noel, acquired by the Mavericks from Philadelphia at the trade deadline, won’t play tonight.  He will make his Mavs debut tomorrow.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on MLBN, 96.3-FM

  • Penn State at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Bemidji State at Gophers women's hockey

    4:07 pm

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Houston

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Maryland

    11 am on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC vs. San Antonio

    11:30 am

  • Washington at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Bemidji State at Gophers women's hockey (if nec.)

    4:07 pm

  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Los Angeles at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Winnipeg

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Pittsburgh at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Utah

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Twins at Baltimore (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Columbus

    6 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Twins at Philadelphia (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan

    5:30 pm on ESPNEWS, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC at Portland

    8:30 pm on FS1

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